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(photo credit: AP)
European Union foreign ministers will propose a "bold package" of incentives to Iran, possibly including security guarantees, if Teheran accepts international oversight of its civilian nuclear program to make sure it is not used to produce weapons, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Monday.
"We have to try to persuade Iran with incentives," Solana said ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers. "We have said over and over again that we think a diplomatic solution is a good way, and we are going to continue on that line and ... we are going to prepare a very serious package that will make it difficult for them to say no."
But in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday rejected any enhanced economic and political incentive package from the EU if it required Tehran to stop enriching uranium, which many experts see as a first step toward producing nuclear weapons.
Asserting that only Iran has the authority to make decisions about its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said, "They want to offer us things they call incentives in return for renouncing our rights."
Solana did not appear unduly worried.
"It will be a generous package, a bold package, that will contain issues related to nuclear, and atomic matters and maybe necessary security matters," he told reporters.
"We have said over and over again that we have nothing against Iran having nuclear capabilities, if it's strictly devoted to the production of energy, (and) we have said that we would even be ready to cooperate with that."
"What we think is not appropriate, not acceptable, is to take the other route which is not to produce energy, but to produce arms or weapons," he said.
The EU hopes that the renewed offer could help persuade Iran to comply with the demands, even as Russia and China resist European and American efforts to draft a Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter - which would make it enforceable by sanctions or, if necessary, military action.
Tehran repeatedly has asserted that its nuclear program, which includes uranium enrichment, is purely civilian in character and aimed at generating power.
But the United States, Israel and the EU fear the research program is in fact a cover for the development of nuclear weapons.
European officials, speaking ahead of Monday's meeting, said the foreign ministers would be seeking to build on the package of economic and political incentives offered to Iran last August in return for a permanent end to uranium enrichment.
Iran rejected that deal, but EU governments have continued to offer sweeteners to try to persuade Tehran to bring its nuclear program in line with international demands, as well as pushing at the United Nations for measures that could lead to sanctions if it refuses.
The EU is now considering adding guarantees that would ensure that Tehran will be able to carry out its civilian nuclear program.
A document posted on the EU's Web site said the ministers were likely to express the bloc's "preparedness to support Iran's development of a safe, sustainable and proliferation-proof civilian nuclear program, if international concerns were fully addressed."
But officials said no major progress on a final proposal could be expected at Monday's meeting, adding that tentative approval of any text was unlikely before a meeting of nonproliferation officials from the five permanent Security Council nations next Friday in London.